The current economic barometer of the German Institute for Economic Research states that the German economy has a long and rocky road to go before it can grow again. The recent lockdowns would have worsened the substance of many companies. This also increases the risk of a wave of insolvencies – at least in the sectors particularly affected, such as the service sector.
For this reason alone, the current training and placement year could be extremely difficult, predicts Hubert Esser, President of the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB) in Bonn: “A tense economy is slowing down the training business,” he says. If vaccination coverage continues to be sluggish, this will have a negative impact on the economic recovery. Companies from industries that are particularly affected by the pandemic would not be able to work at full capacity. “You will then save on apprenticeship positions if the financial reserves are insufficient,” says Esser.
It could therefore be more difficult for applicants to find an apprenticeship position in the coming year than for their predecessors.
Without trade fairs and internships, fewer training contracts can be concluded
According to BIBB, the number of newly concluded training contracts fell by 57,600 last year. A record low in two respects: on the one hand, the number of training contracts in Germany fell below 500,000 for the first time, at 467,500. On the other hand, there were around 11 percent fewer training contracts signed than a year earlier.
A development that could worsen in the current year if the corona restrictions for companies continue: It will be more difficult for a while to organize trade fairs at which companies and potential applicants can get to know each other, and it will be far fewer Give internship offers. The problem here: “Without matching options, fewer training contracts can be concluded,” says Esser.
It could be particularly tight for one group of young applicants for trainees: those with no or only a low school leaving certificate.
Young people with little or no school leaving qualifications are disadvantaged
“Adolescents with lower qualifications or learning disabilities have it particularly difficult in times of pandemics,” says Esser. Often they already have inadequate schooling, which prevents many companies from offering training. In addition, some industries in which they are usually employed are likely to offer fewer training positions this year too, for example in gastronomy, he says.
In the past year, the number of training contracts concluded fell sharply in some industries: around 36 percent fewer contracts were concluded among event managers, around 24 percent less among specialists in the hospitality industry and around 22 percent fewer among restaurant specialists and women. The worst hit were tourism clerks and women, with a decrease of almost 60 percent.
Even the deputy chairman of the German Federation of Trade Unions, Elke Hannack, had already warned at the end of last year about the disadvantage of younger people with low qualifications: “Above all, young people with low or middle school qualifications and young people from immigrant families are at risk of losing out in the crisis “she said in a union press release.
In the meantime, the corona crisis was already encountering a tense training market: According to the latest vocational training report, over two million people between the ages of 20 and 34 in Germany had no completed vocational training in 2018. People without a school leaving certificate are particularly affected: Two out of three school dropouts would therefore not complete any training. Consequently, Corona could worsen the situation for those affected.
Even after the pandemic, companies need skilled workers again
In the best case scenario, other industries could make up for a lack of apprenticeships, believes Esser. Because in large parts of the craft, for example, apprentices are urgently needed, and the need for skilled workers is enormous.
“However, if there are too few training positions overall,
For example, the inter-company training capacities could be used, ”warns Esser. This also included vocational schools with workshops. Potential trainees could acquire partial qualifications here and end up in regular training after the pandemic.
But, according to Esser, it doesn’t have to come to that at all: “Companies know that they need skilled workers if they want to fully restart their operations after the pandemic,” says Esser. For this reason, many have not yet taken the radical step and are cutting training positions because it would be more expensive if there was a shortage of skilled workers during the economic boom.
In addition, the figures from last year also showed that there were around nine percent fewer training positions, but also around nine percent fewer applicants.
Young people do not dare to start training in the pandemic
The falling demand is not only due to the effects of the pandemic: more and more young people have been studying for a long time. In addition, their number is steadily decreasing because Germany is aging, the so-called demographic change has set in. Accordingly, the situation on the apprenticeship market was problematic even before Corona.
But the insecure situation of the training companies in the pandemic also scares off applicants: “Quite a few young people are already deciding against training for fear of restrictions or livelihood worries,” says Esser. This uncertainty must be reduced. For this, it is crucial that the companies continue to receive support from the federal and state governments, for example with the offer of bridging aid.
Last June, the federal government therefore decided to introduce training bonuses to encourage companies to take on new trainees even during the Corona crisis. Small and medium-sized companies with large sales losses are to receive up to 3000 euros per training contract.
Esser thinks a good approach. “But for many companies it was not so easy to get the money, the applications were too bureaucratic,” he says. As a result, especially many small businesses that had to apply for bridging aid on the side, were overwhelmed. “The desired effect has not yet been achieved because the premiums have not even been applied for for this reason,” he says.
In the meantime, the federal government has made the funding conditions for the training premiums significantly easier, but the federal program was still not even known to many companies until the end of November 2020, the Institute for Employment Research found in a survey.